Zoom Session with Friends: Is This The New Normal?

Has it led to this? Last night, i had a zoom session with my closest friends - one of the very few that i attended to. You know why? Because it leaves a bitter taste to me knowing this is the only way i can see my friends and know how they're doing. Is this the new normal? It's supposed to be a drinking session, but getting drunk physically alone (but with friends via video call) is weird for me. 

It is Day 77 of the lockdown here now in Manila. In a few days, a general community quarantine will take place which means easing all pre-existing protocols. As much as this is good news to me, and i can finally go out to run my personal errands and err hopefully meet up with this gang, i would still wait it out. This Wuhan Covid-19 has probably given me a bit of trauma in a way. My interpersonal skills have been compromised big time. Last night, i was having an early evening run and i chanced upon a Grab driver asking for directions. What the hell? I don't know if i should respond to his question or run away. I have always been good with people. I have changed a bit, but i can carry a conversation and make boring discussions exciting and meaningful. Now, i don't know anymore. You see, this pandemic has brought out the worst in people. I am just trying my best to look at the bright side of things, and make the most out of it by learning to adapt and do the things i've been meaning to do. Zoom is cool for now, but heck i don't want to keep on using this app when i get bored and when i miss my friends. I want to ride, even if it means traffic, and hang out with friends and have a drink. I want to go outside. I want to travel alone. I want to travel with my friends. I want a shared experience.

Don't get me wrong. If you follow this blog, you know how i find serenity and peace doing things on my own. I travel solo, probably 90% of the time. I have solo trips that lasted almost three months straight, so i can get by. But there will be moments, when a funny conversation with an old pal or getting a serious advice from a beloved friend, is golden. I've learned to treasure these moments and begin to appreciate these things. 

I hate this new normal. In my previous blog entries, you know how much i despise using it. There's no new normal. We will go back to how it was before and just become better people. 

Amazing Zipline Cruise in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Philippines

The Joy of Solo Traveling Part 2

Wandering around Binondo in the Capital city of Manila, Philippines

I am sharing my soul to everyone reading this.

To be honest, i was brought up fed with a silver spoon, where most of the time i got what i wanted.  Up until now, i am still learning to become more independent, you know on its real essence. Where i have to force myself to work so i have food to eat on the dinner table or where i have to find my way home from a night out of partying way too much not having to call my driver to pick me up because i am nauseous. 

One funny story was when i asked my driver to take me to the baywalk of Manila Bay as i wanted to get out of the house and unto a place where i can chill, relax and write poetry. A few minutes later, i found myself walking wherever. Then, i saw him following me making sure i was alright. That was the tipping point when i realized i needed independence.

Whenever i travel, i feel a sudden urge to look after myself. As much as i want to binge drink when i'm out, let's say in Krabi, Thailand or in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with my friends, i just couldn't. I always ask myself what if i pass out and get so drunk, who will take care of me? Of course my foreigner friends would, but to be honest the real answer is no one but myself. So i try to limit my alcohol intake and stay away from trouble. When i had a slight case of diarrhea in Siem Reap, Cambodia and rashes from bed bugs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, i didn't call my father who happens to be a physician (so imagine i couldn't lie that I'm doing fine because he knows all the symptoms when you're sick etc.) and tell him my condition. I took care of myself. I nursed myself. I bought myself some energy drink far out of the city and some remedy from the drugstore and i conditioned myself to get well. When i was tagged along by a stranger - out in a random night out in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong with a Greek girl and with Australian girl in Koh Phangan, Thailand, i had to decide. I made a choice. A choice i know that could either bring bad or good luck to me. Still i decided for myself. I already thought out of possible repercussions of my decisions. I knew i had to stand by it. That alone made me realize, i am growing to be more mature now.

One of my first nights traveling alone. Mix of excitement, fear and just letting it all go.

What i am trying to say is, the best lessons I've learned are not from school but from traveling. Alone. Traveling per se is an experience already worth mentioning, traveling alone is a notch higher--difficulty level is higher but believe me when i say the end results could change your life forever.

Back home now, i sincerely think i can travel alone. Because i already did it. My loved ones gave their trust to me because i look out for myself traveling for the past three years. Heck, if i can do it in a remote village in Cambodia, i think i can do it. Although i know i have a long way to go. Unless i finally circumnavigate Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan or finally trekked the Amazon with just a spear and travel via a long tail boat, ask me again and i shall be proud to answer.

To be fair, there are times when you will feel lonely and wish that your family and close friends  were there with you in a certain place. When i was in a Chinese restaurant in Singapore, i wanted to splurge a little bit on food so i ordered this and that, as i eat the fried noodles and yang chow fried rice together with squid i sincerely wished my family was there, too, as we are all big fans of Chinese cuisine. When i was in Shanghai, China i rode the river cruise in the Huangpu river. The majestic lights from Pudong was so attractive  i wanted to take so many photos so my my mom and dad can see how really nice it was to ride the cruise. I wished they were there with me relaxing and enjoying the cool view and of course budget would not be constraint. When i was in Koh Tao admiring its impeccable sunset, i was taking a video of it when i realized i wish my close friends were there with me chilling by the beach and drinking cocktails as we watch splashes of oranges and blues painted in the sky.

Remember the movie Into the Wild, a movie based on a true accounts of a young man eager to search for independence. Although his character blew into unexplained proportions, i liked what he said somewhere in the end of the film that what is the essence of traveling and going to such a beautiful place if you cannot share it with people you love.

A Gloomy afternoon in Tonsai beach, Krabi, Thailand

So to end this two part journey of mine explaining why i love solo traveling, i would like to leave you with these two quotations so you can ponder some thought.

"The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready. " - Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

"Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone." -The Dhammapada

So i say, book a flight where you want to go, pack your bags, and brave the new world alone. Your life will soon change forever!

The Joy of Solo Traveling Part 1

The greatest advice you will ever receive from me is to TRAVEL ALONE.

I have traveled to many destinations with many different people and to be honest, the most memorable ones are when i am traveling solo. There is a different feeling to it. It's exciting and very experiential. 

When you travel alone, you take care of yourself!

No one's there to have your back when you get into a fight, no one's there to assist you when you drink too much, heck - there's no one there to guard your bag when you go to the toilet. That's the simple truth!

I have traveled to the southern islands of the Philippines and many countries around South East Asia ALONE. There are times when i feel lonely and sad. That's the truth yet, it's a fact of life for some people. Sometimes, when loneliness hits me, what i do is i call home, surf the net, I write down my thoughts here on my blog or i just drink beer. Someone i know who's traveling for 26 months and counting said his iPod comes in handy whenever he feels lonely. 

Maybe you will ask me if i am a loner? if you really know me that's the least adjective you can describe me. I live hanging out with my family and friends. But i also love spending time alone traveling. It's just my nature, i think.

I traveled to Boracay Island alone for seven days straight and i had a really great time. With a few people i know passing by, meeting new people along the way, but most of the time i was just there alone, wandering around. I've survived the occasional power supply shortage, drinking in the bar alone and the many lonely walks going back to my little hotel.

Chilling in one of the many isolated islands of Guimaras, Philippines

I traveled to Guimaras alone. I hitched a ride on the back of a motorcycle to get to a resort i have no idea where and have no clue how it looks like. Still, i braved the bumpy roads till i get to a little cove in the middle of nowhere. Miscommunication and huge reptiles aside, I've seen how things differ from life in manila to life in a relatively unheard of place like this province, and that made all the difference. During the full moon, i went outside of my simple nipa hut room for a smoke to kill time before i go to sleep. But wait, it's still just 8PM. A few puffs later, i found myself sitting with a group of people i don't know, and don't know where they are from. A few hours later, i've downed to many Gold Eagle beers and crunchy danggits. The next few days, i found myself staring blank on top of the cliff watching the sun go down. I admired the beauty and splendor of the place quietly. I also spent many days going around and finding myself mostly lost in the highway with occasional stares from the locals. Never did i once felt afraid. I felt at home actually. On my last day, i hitched a ride with my new friends back to Ilo-Ilo up until i was dropped off by the jeepney in front of a hotel. With no money spent and not even a clue why, i got the taste of the real kindness from these strangers.

I could literally sleep in green green grass of La Paz in Ilo-Ilo for the whole day, watching youngsters play football, women well dressed for the church and getting lazy. As i sit in a lovely corner infront of Jaro Cathedral, i found the solace i was looking for. Near God, and living a very simple life. I was alone, buying myself two hotcakes and a fresh mango juice. I said a prayer instead because i couldn't understand a word the priest was saying. I walked back home trying to find myself where i should be. I roamed around in the many sidewalks till the sun set, followed the procession of the Virgin Mary and ate early dinner in one of the many Jollibee's. Yet, i never felt so at peace with myself.

After an unbelievable trek going to the beach separated by amazing cliffs in Railay Bay, Krabi, Thailand

Besides getting lost in translation in China literally and finding myself giving my necklace to a lovely Khmer girl, one of the most memorable experiences to date was in my first trip to Thailand, and there i was alone again. With no expectations nor with any fear, I was flying in to the very south of Thailand where supposedly the growing guerrilla fights are still happening. Went to the islands alone and slept in a room with strangers i met on the plane. I found myself the next day crossing an unbelievably hard trek just to get to the other beach. I passed by killer rocks, crops and left over underwear. The next few days, i transferred from one island to the next. Then, i got the last room available with broken padlocks and no ceiling. Met someone and made love in the sea. Drank some more and went home at around 9AM surrounded by shady Thai police. No fear at all. 

Maybe, the real reason why i was the king of confidence and fighting spirit was because i was traveling alone. I didn't have to explain to anyone where i was that night, or why i did stay in the islands longer or why i became lazy in the middle of the trip.

I did what i did and just moved on. No explanations needed. No arguments. No walk outs. No drama. Life is simple. Traveling with someone makes traveling complicated. 

My dear readers, this is just my personal opinion. Some people work well traveling with someone. I, on the other hand work best when i go solo! 

Maybe one of the reasons why these experiences became so memorable to me is that i challenged myself. Regardless whether i was successful or not, i completed it. 

Lost at the majestic mountains and tiny little coves of Antique, Philippines

There's also the feeling of isolation. The truth holds that whatever i do now will never ever pose a problem with anyone but myself. Whatever decision i make while i was on the road will never backfire at me when mishaps happen. And they do happen. 

Of course, traveling alone may pose a problem. Let's get real.

I needed to pay for my room alone, i needed to pay for my boat alone, i needed to pay and eat a huge meal alone. And there's no one to talk to in my native language when i feel tired of speaking my second language. But that's about it. Other than that, i want some space traveling.

There is no greater achievement for me than to travel alone in an unknown destination. Through traveling solo, you will learn to be street-smart, responsible, knowledgeable and sociable!

To be Continued.

My Flight to Mindoro Got Cancelled Due to Wuhan Covid-19

Yes. What a bummer.

I booked this round trip flight almost one year ago, during a promo and paid only about P1,000 or about $20. I never knew back then that there would be a pandemic. I never knew that Wuhan Covid-19 was this worse. I only thought about it for a second and know it will pass. It has been 73 days since the lockdown here in Manila. Even if i hate the term "the new normal", i reckon i have to accept the fact that there will be a new normal soon, if not it's happening already. 

Supposedly, it will be my fourth time flying into Mindoro. I couldn't go back to Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro just yet. This would've been my third time in Occidental Mindoro. Secret - this year i was planning to go back to my most favorite provinces in the country. But this time, i would be doing something different or going to somewhere i've never been before. I was even planning to extend my stay to add an overnight trip to Pandan Island and Sablayan. I can already imagine the white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, fresh seafood and ice cold beer. I miss that island so much. It brings me back so much memories of how underrated the place is, yet it's one of the country's hidden gems. It also brings back memories how young i was starting to travel around the country. I remember enjoying my San Miguel Beer after almost five hours of travel - one plane ride, one UV van ride, one tricycle and one passenger boat. It was one of the best gulps ever. Wheeew! 

This is the new normal for me, i guess. 

I have a secret confession to make. I have a flight booking for a scheduled trip every single month this year. I've been doing it for the past three years already now. Every month, no fail. I felt that i needed to go out there, whether local or international travel, once a month. Imagine how it would be for me this year. Even before the start of the pandemic, i have experienced numerous flight cancellations. My first trip of the year to Batanes got cancelled due to Taal Volcano eruption. You can read more about it here. Back in February, i was supposed to fly to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. It would have been my fourth time in the country, too. Alas! My flight wasn't sorted out with the airline company. And then March came, i was booked to fly to Bali in Indonesia with friends. Just days after i got back from Biliran. I got sick (more on this in a separate blog entry) and there was Wuhan Covid-19. You see, this year, it's been rough and tough for travelers like me. I get the feeling that my itch to travel is nothing compared to the hardships some are facing now. I can't fathom not having a job to earn money and no food to put in the table, most especially if you have a family to support. We're gunning three months now full of uncertainty when will this pandemic end. 

When i look back reading this once everything's back to normalcy (hopefully soon), note to self - "You will travel again, soon. Just not now. There will be changes, though. But it'll be soon" 

Think positive. I just have to think positive for the next 7 months.